Sean Pendergast

Which Texas Schools Would Have Been In a 12 Team College Football Playoff?

If there were an eight team playoff, Charlie Brewer and Baylor would have been in it a couple years ago.
If there were an eight team playoff, Charlie Brewer and Baylor would have been in it a couple years ago. Photo by Jack Gorman
Of all the major sports out there, far and away, college football at its highest levels is the slowest to evolve. Less than 30 years ago, we were still having media members and coaches select the champion of the sport via a VOTE, like a damn beauty contest. For the next couple decades, college football power brokers were dragged kicking and screaming into various iterations of "pitting the top two games against each other."

Finally, in 2014, it felt like the Berlin Wall came down when the powers that be invoked a four team College Football Playoff. Now, all of a sudden, with the announcement last week that college football's FBS level will seek to move toward a 12-team playoff, the gloves are off. Sure, there are still bowl games, and lip service will be paid to the sanctity of the sport's regular season being maintained, but the cash grab is real. And you know what? GOOD!

It's about time that college football get into the 21st century, open things up, and create a true playoff season. I think 12 is the perfect number of teams, or at the very least, it feels like the highest number we can go to before the regular season's significance is damaged in some way. With the format the decision makers announced — six highest rated conference champions, six at-large teams selected by a committee, first round games played on college campuses, quarterfinals and beyond played in bowl game/neutral sites — the final month of the regular season will be dotted with important games all over the college football landscape.

Bringing it back locally, maybe now schools from Texas will actually be playing in some important games down the stretch. To this point, Texas schools have garnered as many CFB Playoff spots as schools from Alaska or Puerto Rico. (READ: Zero) The interesting thing would be to go back and see how many times, since 2014 and the advent of the four team playoff, that a Texas school would have been playoff worthy under this system.

Hey, good news! I did that exact research, and here is what I found out. First, here is what a 12-team field would have looked like in each postseason from 2014 through 2020:

BYES (Top four conference champions)
1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Ohio State
4. Oklahoma

FIELD (Conference champs in BOLD)
5. Notre Dame
6. Texas A&M
7. Florida
8. Cincinnati
9. Georgia
10. Iowa State
11. Indiana
12. Coastal Carolina

BYES (Top four conference champions)
1. LSU
2. Ohio State
3. Clemson
4. Oklahoma

FIELD (Conference champs in BOLD)
5. Georgia
6. Oregon
7. Baylor
8. Wisconsin
9. Florida
10. Penn State
11. Utah
12. Memphis

BYES (Top four conference champions)
1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Oklahoma
4. Ohio State

FIELD (Conference champs in BOLD)
5. Notre Dame
6. Georgia
7. Michigan
8. UCF
9. Washington
10. Florida
11. LSU
12. Penn State

BYES (Top four conference champions)
1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Georgia
4. Ohio State

FIELD (Conference champs in BOLD)
5. Alabama
6. Wisconsin
7. Auburn
8. USC
9. Penn State
10. Miami
11. Washington
12. UCF

BYES (Top four conference champions)
1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Washington
4. Penn State

FIELD (Conference champs in BOLD)
5. Ohio State
6. Michigan
7. Oklahoma
8. Wisconsin
9. USC
10. Colorado
11. Florida State
12. Western Michigan

BYES (Top four conference champions)
1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Michigan State
4. Oklahoma

FIELD (Conference champs in BOLD)
5. Iowa
6. Stanford
7. Ohio State
8. Notre Dame
9. Florida State
10. North Carolina
11. TCU
12. Houston

BYES (Top four conference champions)
1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. Florida State
4. Ohio State

FIELD (Conference champs in BOLD)
5. Baylor
6. TCU
7. Mississippi State
8. Michigan State
9. Ole Miss
10. Arizona
11. Kansas State
12. Boise State

And now, a few noteworthy things to point out:

Here is the overall scorecard for the imaginary 12-team playoffs the last seven seasons
There is one school that would have qualified every season, and guess who it WASN'T —- ALABAMA. No, in fact, it was Ohio State, who actually won the first playoff back in 2014. Urban Meyer and Ryan Day have overseen a juggernaut that should remain a practically automatic qualifier under the expanded system. For what it's worth, here are the 39 schools that would have qualified, and how many times:

SEVEN (1): Ohio State

SIX (3): Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma

FIVE (0): None

FOUR (2): Georgia, Penn State

THREE (5): Notre Dame, Florida, Wisconsin, Washington, Florida State

TWO (8): LSU, Oregon, BAYLOR, Michigan, UCF, USC, Michigan, TCU

ONE (20): TEXAS A&M, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Indiana, Coastal Carolina, Utah, Memphis, Auburn, Miami (FL), Colorado, Western Michigan, Iowa, Stanford, North Carolina, HOUSTON, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arizona, Kansas State, Boise State

OK, let's drill this down to the state of Texas
Yikes, for a state that had an iconic television series about high school football in the state, Texas sure has had a hard time fighting the good fight since 2014. Of course, in that first playoff in 2014, you could argue that the winner of a TCU-Baylor Big XII title game would have won a spot, but instead, the Big XII didn't have a title game back then, and named them both co-champs. Ohio State jumped both of them on playoff Sunday, and went on to win the title. As it is now, here are the Texas schools that would have qualified for a 12-team playoff in the last seven seasons:

Baylor, TCU - 2
Texas A&M, Houston - 1

So yes, that means the University of Texas has been SO underwhelming that they wouldn't have even made a 12-team playoff the last seven seasons, AND Tom Herman would have made more playoff appearances in his two seasons at U of H than he did in four seasons in Austin. So, no, Sam Ehlinger, you guys most certainly were not baaaaaaaack:

This playoff expansion is phenomenal news for the Group of Five schools
For years now, there has been speculation that all of the conference realignment and power brokering has been heading to a split between the Power Five conferences and the remaining five conferences (the "Group of Five" as it's called), which includes the University of Houston. Well, this new system basically does the exact opposite — the Group of Five is, by definition, now guaranteed to be, at least, a small part of this, with the rule that the top SIX conference champions would be guaranteed a spot. More often than not, it will be as the 12-seed, but it gives coaches at that level SOMETHING beyond just a big bowl game to selll recruits on. For what it's worth, here are the Group of Five qualifiers in a mythical 12-team tournament over the last seven years:

2014 - Boise State
2015 - Houston
2016 - Western Michigan
2017 - UCF
2018 - UCF
2019 - Memphis
2020 - Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina

The earliest the 12-team playoff would go into effect would be 2023. It can't get here soon enough.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast